The Wired65 region, comprised of 26 counties surrounding the Louisville metropolitan area, presents a unique combination of assets and challenges. Home to Worldport, UPS’s international shipping hub, the area boasts a strong logistics and distribution cluster, as well as a significant automotive presence. In addition, the consolidation of the Human Resources Command at Fort Knox ultimately transformed the post from a largely blue-collar workforce charged primarily with maintaining equipment to a largely white-collar workforce charged with managing personnel activities for the entire US Army. Supplying the needed workforce to support this transition would be challenging given the region’s existing occupational mix and educational attainment levels.
To better integrate economic and workforce development efforts, partners across the bi-state region obtained a $5 million grant under the US Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative. As the first step in leveraging this funding, leaders in the Wired65 region—named for the interstate highway that connects its economy and workforce—engaged TIP Strategies and Madison-based Next Generation Consulting to prepare a Regional Competitiveness Strategy. Known as the TIP Report, the comprehensive document assessed the region’s competitive position, examined critical skills and training needs, and identified factors that influenced the talent base. Using insights gained from county workshops, an online survey completed by more than 2,900 residents, and regular meetings with a broad cross-section of leaders, the report provided a blueprint for the development, retention, and recruitment of talent. Following its release in November 2008, the report directed the Wired65 partnership’s work for several years, including guiding the disbursement of $3.5 million in WIRED funds via a competitive proposal process. In addition to several smaller “catalytic” investments, a single “Quantum Fund” investment was awarded for creation of an online portal to foster regional cooperation and provide comprehensive labor force information.